Sunday, 26 October 2014

Edinburgh - I do like to be beside the seaside

With the end of my bicycle adventure around northern Europe, it’s time to settle down again for a little while, get back to work and of course, get into the Scottish outdoors. But before all that, I’ve spent the last few weeks settling into my new home in Edinburgh. Well, it’s sort of a new home. I’ve moved back down to Portobello, Edinburgh’s seaside, where I lived previously for many years and am renting space again from my friend, Graham. 

As a city location, I love Portobello. The house is right at the sea so it’s perfect for long morning ambles along the beach, preferably in wild, wet weather. There are birds to see all year round but in winter the numbers swell with visiting waders that gather in flocks in the quieter corners of the beach. In calmer weather, it’s great to be able to pop the canoe in the water at the bottom of the street for a spot of paddling.

Close by there are super places for longer walks such as the wynding, woodland paths overgrown by ivy that surround the old house at Newhailes, or Figgate Park with its long view to Arthur's Seat and a boardwalk that reaches out into the pond. Sitting there makes me feel like I’m out on the water with the birds. The other great aspect of Portobello is that it’s so easy to escape the city from here. Ten minutes of cycling takes me to the quiet back roads and bicycle trails of East Lothian or I can cycle a little way along the coast to the beautiful bays at Aberlady and Gullane.

But the highlight of being back in Portobello is my new garden shed! Tucked away at the bottom of the garden, it looks like any other shed from the outside but inside is a fabulous, cosy garden studio. I’m so grateful to Graham and Bart who worked really hard to build it for me. The garden itself is small but is enclosed by tall trees and bushes that give my shed an air of secrecy. I love sitting at my door and watching all the birds that visit the feeders and bird bath.

Every day in the garden there are sparrows, blue tits, coal tits, blackbirds, collared doves, a wren and two robins that quarrel constantly. Over the years many other types of bird have visited. In summer, swifts nest every year under the roof. The air space above the garden is their hunting territory during the long summer days and at nights long-eared bats take over. A mouse lives behind the other shed in the garden and eats the bird food that falls to the ground. He prefers peanuts to seeds. The backdrop to the birds’ twittering is the rustle of the tall golden birch above my door or the crash of the surf on the beach. It’s a wonderful peaceful haven right in the city.

As well as some personal relaxation space in the shed, there is a storage area for all my outdoor kit. I’m sure that in the months to come, I’ll be heading down there with big mugs of tea, spreading my maps out on the floor and pouring over them for hours. There’s no doubt that plans for trips to the Scottish hills will be hatched down there as well as plans for my next big cycle adventure, wherever that may be.

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